Scholarly biography and interests
Author and illustrator John Vernon Lord has been a pioneer in the education of illustrators and a life-long contributor to the work of the illustration department at the University of Brighton. He was made Emeritus Professor in 1999 and remains a visiting and associated academic.
John Vernon Lord 's work combines practice as a book illustrator; author and illustrator of children's books and author of published articles related to the subject of illustration.
A number of his books have been translated into many languages and some have been reissued in hardback and paperback editions in the UK and abroad. The Giant Jam Sandwich (story and illustrations by John Vernon Lord), for instance, was first published by Jonathan Cape in 1970 and is still in print 32 years later. The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear (edited, introduction and 330 illustrations by John Vernon Lord) was first published by Jonathan Cape in 1984 and it has been reissued in several subsequent editions. He has also completed a set of illustrations for The Icelandic Sagas, published by the Folio Society.
In July 2002 he gave a lecture, entitled 'Drawing from Words: Thoughts about Illustrating' at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Professor Lord's fifty years of continuous teaching at what had become the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts was celebrated in December 2011.
John Vernon Lord's career took him to the status of Professor Emeritus at the University of Brighton (from 1999), having taught at Brighton College of Art (1961-70); Brighton Polytechnic (1970-92) and the University of Brighton (1992-1999). An Honorary DLitt was conferred by the University of Brighton in 2000. He was appointed Professor of Illustration at Brighton in 1986 where he held various senior posts over the years, including Head of Department of Visual Communication (1974-81 and 1984), Head of Department of Graphic Arts (1989-91) and Head of the School of Design (1997-8).
His scholarly practice and research investigated book illustration and the perception of illustrated images. Children's book illustration is a specific area of interest and some aspects of the history of illustration. The illustrators of Aesop's and La Fontaine's fables have been a specialist area of study.
He has been involved in the support and formal supervision of a range of MPhil/PhD research students. A selected example of thesis titles show the wide-ranging subjects that have been covered: 'An analysis of the elements affecting comprehensibility of illustrations intended as supportive to text'; 'Children's responses to illustration'; 'Visual literacy: a study of the relationship of children and pictorial images'; 'Apprehending Movement of the Human Figure through the Medium of Drawing, with Comments on its possible relationship to Computer Mediated Interaction'; 'The lost arts of Islamic Calligraphy: sources of decline, suggestions for renewal'.
John Vernon Lord's Drawing Upon Drawing is one of the books available from the Collge of Arts and Humanities online shop.
Scholarly and professional activities
Professor Lord has participated in several broadcasts for the BBC's Radio 4 and World Services. These have ranged from being interviewed on The John Dunn Showdiscussing the publication of The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear; reviewing the Edward Lear exhibition at the Royal Academy on the programme Kaleidoscope and reciting Edward Lear's works to being interviewed for More or Less, a programme that explored the significance of numbers. He has been interviewed on several programmes for various local radio networks in the UK about the publication of his book, exhibitions, art and design education and winning the W.H. Smith Illustration Prize.
Published work includes
- Myths and Legends of the British Isles, edited by Richard Barber (with illustrations by JVL), The Folio Society, 1998
- King Arthur's Knights, by Henry Gilbert (with illustrations by JVL), Macmillan, 1995
- The Squirrel and the Crow, by Wendy Cope (with illustrations by JVL) 'Prospero Poets' series for the Clarion Press, 1994
- Aesop's Fables (edited, introduction and 110 illustrations by JVL) Jonathan Cape, 1989
Conference papers, lectures and articles
- 'Illustrating Books for Children', published in three parts in the magazineIllustrator (February - April 1999)
- 'A Sandwich, Nonsense, Fables, Myths and Legends' - paper given at the 1a Setmana de la Illustración en Barcelona hosted by the Associacó Professional d'Illustradors de Catalunya at the Museu d'Història de Catalunya, Barcelona, published in 'Ciclo de Conferencias' and translated as 'Un Bocadillo, Desatinos, Fábulas, Mitos y Leyendas', 1999
- 'Some Aspects of What an Illustrator has to Think About When Creating Children's Picture Books'. A paper published in four languages in Premi VII Internacional Catalònia D'Il.lustracio, Universitat Pompeu Fabra/Enciclopèdia Catalana, Barcelona 1997
- Illustrating Lear's Nonsense, (Inaugural Lecture by JVL), Brighton Polytechnic, 1991
- 'An Author's View: John Vernon Lord talking about writing picture books,' Reflections on Early Reading, edited by Roger Beard, Collins Educational, 1990
Professor John Vernon Lord's work has been shown in a number of exhibitions in the UK during the past six years, including such venues as The Victoria and Albert Museum; The Barbican Centre, London; and The Fine Arts Society Gallery, London.
Grants and awards
- Aesop's Fables won the overall prize in the 'W.H. Smith Illustration Awards'
- The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear won the 'Redwood Burn Award' sponsored by the NBL and Publishers' Association; and the 'General Selectors' Award' by the British Federation of Master Printers
References related to his work are cited in the following selection of biographical dictionaries, books and articles:
- 'A Life Less Ordinary: John Vernon Lord on Illustrating the Verse of Edward Lear,'The Argus Weekend, 9 February 2002, (pp 1-4)
- Edward Lear: The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, ed Vivien Noakes, Penguin, 2001 (citing Illustrating Lear's Nonsense, page xlvi)
- 'Mind for Detail' (Notebook Drawings) by Patrick Burgoyne, Creative Review, June 1997
- Who's Who in the World, Marquis, New Jersey, USA, 1995 to date
- Dictionary of British Book Illustrators 1915-1985, edited by Alan Horne, The Antique Collectors' Club 1994
- People of Sussex, edited by Julian Hime, Debrett's Peerage Ltd, 1992
- The International Authors and Writers' Who's Who, edited by Ernest Kay, IBC, Cambridge, 1991 - to date
- 'Master fable-maker', by Charles Causley, The Times Educational Supplement, 16 February 1990
- 'Aesop', The Junior Bookshelf, April 1990
- 'Stuff and Nonsense', by Vivien Noakes, Punch, 29 January 1988
- 'That Singular Person Called Lear' by Susan Chitty, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988 (citing The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear, page 268)
- 'The High Lord of Nonsense', by Vanora Leigh, Evening Argus, Brighton, 16 August 1986
The foremost Edward Lear scholar and biographer Vivien Noakes wrote of The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear:
"I find Mr. Lord's work irresistible. Most new illustrations of Lear's verse are enjoyable artistic exercises which have little to do with the writer. These illustrations, however, are no superficial ornamentation. Mr. Lord has soaked himself in Lear and his work, and has brought to his drawings an affectionate insight and understanding of the man and the Nonsense writer. He has set out to provide a new perspective to Lear's verse and the universe he created, and in this he succeeds splendidly. Not for anything would I have missed his old man on the Border or his old person of Skye, while his Scroobious Pip is all that anyone could wish'. They are not Lear's illustrations, but I think he would have approved."
(Vivien Noakes, 'Stuff and Nonsense', Punch, 29 January 1988)
Another extract from a review of The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear by M.C. in Junior Bookshelf, October 1984:
"Physically the new Lear is a book of the highest distinction. Paper, print, design are all of great excellence, making this - if not of immediate appeal to children - a book for connoisseurs to gloat over. John Vernon Lord gives us almost all the verse, together with a thoughtful introductory essay, a book list and an exceptionally good index. Perhaps his most remarkable editorial achievement is in the arrangement. He gives us the limericks in batches, divided by the longer poems. The limericks themselves have been put into groups - although this device has not been pursued pedantically - according to theme. So we have, for example, five pages of poems about eating, two on walking, five of people (and a cow) up trees, two on despair, and so on. It might be feared that this merely draws attention to Lear's repetitiousness. Far from it; it brings home to the reader his infinite resourcefulness and the concentrated oneness of his curious philosophy. Here is altogether a bigger Lear than we have sometimes allowed ourselves to believe in. For many this edition will be memorable mainly for Mr Lord's illustrations. An artist re-illustrates Lear at his peril, for the author's original drawings are surely definitive. Nevertheless plenty of brave men have taken on the task from Leslie Brooke to Edward Gorey, and Mr Lord takes his stand with the best of them. He draws always in black and white with the greatest power and precision. He emphasises the essential seriousness of Lear's nonsense, and he builds up cumulatively a picture of a society in which supremely individual eccentrics are put down by a conformist establishment, the 'they' whom Mr Lord portrays not as faceless bureaucrats but as only too clearly delineated hostile persons. It is a performance of the greatest virtuosity, one that will not please all traditionalists but for some will unveil a new and bigger Lear."
(M.C., 'The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear', The Junior Bookshelf, October 1984)
Of Aesop's Fables the poet Charles Causley has written:
"For his handsome Aesop's Fables John Vernon Lord has chosen 200 of his favourites, now retold in verse by the redoubtable James Michie. The result is a triumph. The tales rise freshly from the pages as though written by some master today… Daringly John Vernon Lord sets the scenes in an around his home in the village of Ditchling. It might not be thought that the exotic fauna of Asia Minor could inhabit with such ease the intensely English landscape of Sussex, but occupy it, and with great naturalness, it does. The assured and finely detailed black and white illustrations complement Michie's verses with such delicacy, wit and sympathetic understanding that the work of artist and poet seem the work of one. How often may this be said of writer and illustrator?"
(Charles Causley, 'Master fable-maker', The Times Educational Supplement, 16 February 1990)
Another extract from a review of Aesop's Fables by M.C. in Junior Bookshelf, April 1990:
"Admirable as are James Michie's poems, witty, economical, pointed, this is John Vernon Lord's book. As in his edition of Edward Lear, he makes us look afresh at familiar pieces and sharpens our understanding of their true meaning. The scholarly introduction is evidence that this success is no accident. Mr. Lord has thought about Aesop a great deal and recognised the relevance of the Fables in every age. With that in mind - and no doubt because this is what he likes to draw - he sets the fables in his own Twentieth century Sussex, their timelessness somehow underlined by the homely contemporary scenes. Aesop was a hard-headed realist and clear-sighted social commentator, one whose message is not to be prettied up. The black and white pictures are exquisitely done, and are set into the text with enormous skill. Type, printing, paper and casing are all of the highest quality. It all adds up to a beautiful and desirable book; an expensive one too, which is a pity because the book deserves a wide distribution, but sadly quality of this kind can be had only at a price. One for the collector, and for the special child on a special occasion. Set the cost against that of a video or a meal-out and consider which will give the most lasting satisfaction."
(M.C., 'Aesop', The Junior Bookshelf, April 1990)
Juries, committees and editorial boards
- The 24th Annual and Exhibition entitled 'Images' for the Association of Illustrators 1999
- British Judge for the 7th International Illustration Prize at Barcelona, Spain 1997
- British Judge for the Illustrators' Exhibition at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, Italy 1996
- The W.H. Smith Illustration Awards 1993
- The Macmillan Prize for a Children's Book 1992 - 1996
- 'Images 1990' (Annual Exhibition of the Association of Illustrators)
- The Reader's Digest Award (the 'Young Illustrators' exhibition 1986)
- The Best of British Illustration 1980 (Annual Exhibition of the Association of Illustrators)
Professor Lord has also served on several National Committees including:
- Member of the SEC Grade Criteria Working Party for the GCSE Examinations in Art and Design 1986-87
- Member of the NCAE Visual Communication Panel, Ireland 1980-85
- Member of the CNAA Committee for Art and Design 1981-84
- Member and Specialist Advisor of the CNAA Graphic Design Board 1978-87 (Chair 1981-84)
- Member of the NCDAD Graphic Design Panel (1974 - 75).
He has taken part in 68 validations of courses and institutions in the UK, Ireland and Hong Kong